Social distancing could return in the Winter if there is a “significant uptick” in hospital admissions for the Chinese coronavirus, but a “full-blown lockdown” is unlikely, Professor Neil Ferguson has said.
The remarks come after months of government officials preparing Britons to be ready to accept yet more restrictions after the end of measures that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said were “irreversible”.
Professor Ferguson — often dubbed either ‘Professor Lockdown’ for his part in designing the government’s lockdown strategy and ‘Professor Pantsdown’ for breaking his own rules to meet his married mistress — is part of the influential Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which advises the government on its handling of the pandemic.
He told Sky News on Friday that while it is unlikely there will be another “full-blown lockdown” this Winter, there could be a return to measures such as social distancing if there is a “significant uptick” in hospitalisations.
“We can’t rule out some need for additional measures, but I very much doubt we will need to go back into lockdown again,” Professor Ferguson said.
Adding: “As long as we can roll out the booster programme and the vaccination of teenagers as promptly as possible, I’m moderately optimistic.”
Even before most restrictions in England came to an end on July 19th, Boris Johnson implied that Britain could face measures again if there were a “rough Winter”, saying in late June: “You can never exclude that there will be some new disease, some new horror that we simply haven’t budgeted for or accounted for.”
UK Health Secretary Rules out Vax Passes by Not Ruling out Vax Passes at All https://t.co/C8u0uhlc9P
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 17, 2021
Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty also predicted a “quite difficult Winter” two weeks before the end of restrictions, suggesting normality may not return until Spring 2022.
August reports then claimed that the prime minister had authorised the drawing up of contingency plans for “firebreak” lockdowns in the Winter, with a source telling media that they would be short and preferably during school holidays in late October and over Christmas. A government spokesman confirmed that such plans were in place, claiming “it is both right and sensible that we maintain contingency plans for reimposing restrictions at a local, regional or national level if evidence suggests they are necessary”.
In September, Health Secretary Sajid Javid revealed the government’s strategy should there be a coronavirus surge in the Winter, which could include the return of mask mandates and working from home, as well as the introduction of domestic vaccine passports.
“These measures would be: communicating clearing and urgently to the public the need for caution; legally mandating face coverings in certain settings; and whilst we’re not going ahead with mandatory vaccine-only Covid status certification now, we’ll be holding that power in reserve,” Mr Javid said.
Johnson later defended the prospect of demanding Britons carry papers to go about their lives, calling them a “game-changer” and a “life-saver”.
Last week, Brexit leader Nigel Farage predicted that there would be “mass disobedience” if the government imposed new measures, vowing that he would defy them.
"If they want to lock down again, I'm not interested, I'm too old and I haven't got the time. I'm just not going to do it," Farage said https://t.co/JNRIDcbwux
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 19, 2021